State officials say federal regulators are forcing them to restrict the public’s access to HOV lanes on I-405. However, a review of federal rules shows they could stop tolls on Interstate 405 and give the public the popular HOV 2+ and general travel lanes the public paid for in 2003 and 2005.
According to a new Washington State Department of Transportation survey, the public wants state and local officials to reduce traffic congestion above all other transportation-related issues.
The survey also asked people how they would spend transportation dollars. Respondents, WSDOT says, “are most interested in investing in increasing capacity and maintaining the system, followed by expanding travel options.”
It’s not too often these three independent and respected groups happen to recommend voters take the same path. Yet the League of Women Voters in Seattle/King County, the Seattle Times Editorial Board, and the King County Municipal League recently did just that. They all recommend voters say "No" to Seattle's $930 million property tax proposal this November.
Commuters took to social media this morning to vent some of their frustrations with tolling two lanes of traffic on I-405. Many tweeted about the increase in congestion in the general purpose lanes, as KING TV reported the Monday morning Everett to Bellevue commute had a “Jam Factor” of 10.
Here is a quick compilation of some Twitter users’ experience with the new HOT lanes:
Washington Policy Center recently participated in the KING TV special program, “Fighting Traffic,” which aired last week. Even as a panelist, I was anxious to see what plans public officials had in mind to reduce traffic congestion and make trips quicker around the Puget Sound Region, but elation soon turned to disappointment.
In Washington state, for-profit businesses owned by 24 Indian tribes have special agreements to receive payments out of the public treasury. Under an arrangement made by Governor Gregoire in 2007, 19 of these tribes receive “refund” payments equal to 75% of the state gas tax on all motor vehicle fuel sold on tribal lands.
KING 5 News reported today that the Seattle Seawall Project will take a year longer to build than officials promised. In addition, Seattle officials have increased the project budget from the original $290 million price tag to $409 million, a 33% increase.
The recent news story about public officials not letting the Ride the Ducks group tour vehicles use bus lanes has renewed a controversy over reserving parts of public streets for transit only. Last year, KOMO TV reported many in the public are unhappy with the government-restricted lanes, including the tagger of the well-known plea, “Metro stop stealing our lanes.” The public response prompted a debate about whether the lanes are working for people or not.
Danny Westneat’s Seattle Times column on phasing out single-family housing in Seattle drew over 250 comments within the first three hours of being posted online. By the next day, readers had logged over 700 more. Why is a column about housing in Seattle drawing such a large response? A proposal by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s housing task force suggests officials may want to make sweeping changes to many of Seattle’s neighborhoods.
While Sound Transit officials prepare to ask people living in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to pay billions in new taxes for more costly light rail projects, they may be experiencing nervous shock at what just happened in a neighboring city to the north. Voters in Metro Vancouver, B.C. just handed a resounding “No” to local transit officials, coming in 62% against a proposed subway and light rail expansion project.
Lawmakers have again made reducing traffic congestion a top priority for state officials. Prior to 2007, the state used performance-based benchmarks to make sure that transportation tax dollars were being used effectively to reduce traffic congestion. In 2007, lawmakers repealed that language and replaced it five goals of transportation policy. State lawmakers added a sixth policy goal in 2010. Congestion relief is not among them.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is working with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers to repeal the state’s low carbon fuel standard regulations (LCFS) as part of passing a broad congestion-relief transportation package. The agreement shows how a governor and lawmakers of both parties can come together to pass important legislation that serves the people of their state. Unfortunately, things are working differently in Washington.
According to House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), Democratic leaders have decided to halt work on a transportation package until state leaders agree on a state operating budget. House leaders say they want to work on passing a new capital gains income tax, despite receiving $3.2 billion in new revenue under current tax rates.
Yesterday, Governor Inslee signed a two-year transportation budget into law. The $7.6 billion plan includes about $5 billion for the Washington State Department of Transportation over the next two years, $430 million for the Washington State Patrol, and dedicates about $1.5 billion to pay off Nickel and TPA bonds. The budget for the 2015-2017 biennium also funds other transportation-related offices and departments, like the Department of Licensing.
Bob Pishue is the Director of the Coles Center for Transportation at Washington Policy Center. Prior to joining Washington Policy Center in 2013, Bob interned at the Washington Research Council where he produced policy briefs on initiatives and referenda. His last role was the IT and HR Manager for a Bellevue-based retailer. A Washington resident throughout his life, Bob grew up in Everett and graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Bob serves on his church’s annual audit committee and is also an avid golfer. He lives in Kirkland.